Monday, 7 October 2013

The good, the bad and the healthy

I’ll be honest with you – I do not do my best to be a better person. In fact, I hardly even try. But sometimes, even though very rarely and far from regularly, I get the urge to do something about my egocentric existence. Then I choose the laziest way possible – I resolve to buying “right” products, in particular food. And see, that’s where the problems start.

There are Fair Trade products. They are more expensive than regular alternatives because the producers (poor farmers in Third World countries) get a fair fee for their produce. Which is good. The Fair Trade logo doesn't mean the products were made using sustainable energy. The farmers are better off, but they still may be causing damage to the environment. That’s bad. They might also be using loads of pesticides. Not very healthy.

Then there are products, usually foods, called ‘organic’. From my secondary school I can vaguely remember that inorganic compounds cannot be properly processed by the human digestive system. In other words, if it’s not organic it’s not edible, i.e. all foods are by definition organic. I might be wrong, school was a very long time ago. In Dutch they refer to these products as ‘biologisch’. It’s a complicated concept, but one of the features is that for plants no pesticides and for animals no aggressive medications are being used in the process. Very good. That means that farmers run a risk of losing part of their produce to diseases and parasites. It makes the price much higher and that is bad for the family budget. Besides, we all know that pesticides and medications also help prevent plants and animals from getting diseases that could be transmitted to people. Might be not so healthy.

And then there are animal friendly products. That often means that these products were not tested on animals. Good. But wait, were they then tested on people? That’s closer to bad. Or weren't they tested at all? That might not be so healthy. Yesterday we had lunch at Bagels&Beans.  I had an everything bagel with Prosciutto di Monastero, Parmiggiano Reggiano, pine nuts and arugula. There was a little green square next to Prosciutto di Monastero. According to the menu a green square means… animal friendly! I am not kidding.

I guess my attempts to be a better person are doomed to fail.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

How to succeed with women

A couple of years ago I found this book on my boyfriend’s shelf. ‘How to succeed with women’ the title said. Intrigued I read nearly half of the book right under the book shelf. I learned a couple of things:
- My boyfriend did not read it;
- The vast majority of advice makes total sense;
- Reading this kind of stuff reveals some things about men in general.

I wanted to read the whole book, but had to put it off for a while because of the permanent lack of time and different priorities. But then I stumbled upon the blog of RooshV. The author of the blog travels around the world trying to have (unpaid) sex with as many women as possible. Afterwards he makes practical travel guides for guys. Apparently the books sell well enough to help him keep on travelling. Before RooshV started producing his travel guides, he wrote a book called ‘Bang’. “Bang is a pickup textbook intended for men who weren't born with the natural ability to sleep with a lot of women. It contains simple but powerful techniques, moves, and lines that offer a direct line to casual sex.”

I know, I know: there’s no one single recipe, no two women are the same and getting laid should not be a goal of any self-respecting man. Nonetheless, a lot of advice in these books makes perfect sense. As a small example here’s an excerpt from the Bang: “We don’t use direct game, where we walk up to a girl and tell her she is beautiful.” According to RooshV men shouldn't do this because that would increase the woman’s value relative to that of the approaching man. That wouldn't be my reasoning, but please, men, do as he says! It might sound counter-productive, but it ‘s true. It might signal that you are not really interested in her intellect and personality, that you are boring or that you are not prepared to make more effort. Whether you want quick sex or a long-lasting relationship – those are not the signals to send.

If men took this seriously and internalised at least a little part of the recommendations life would be a lot more pleasant. So guys, whatever your aims and status, please do read your literature. It’s there for a reason. And if you happen to know of any female equivalents of those books, please do let me know.

This is very beautiful: Soha - Mil pasos

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Netherlands is poor. The recession has hit us so hard, we couldn’t withstand it. And now we are all broke, poor beggars. Newspapers dedicate whole chapters to poverty and poor people. Second hand and thrift shops keep on popping up around the town. Food banks scream for help because they are not able to feed the ever-growing number of clients. Even big shops try to give tips on saving and doing things on a tight budget.

I don’t know how the latest issue of AH Wathandig found its way to our kitchen table. I came down for a super late brunch today and saw it there. I never pick up this magazine at the supermarket because it contains literally nothing but advertising. I must have opened it on a wrong page, but the first thing I saw: “Nowadays I cut open the seemingly empty tubes of toothpaste and cream. I still get quite a lot of product out of them this way.” Dûh!

Never mind, I turn a couple of pages. It’s time to budget-decorate the house. Take a large sheet of coloured cardboard; collects all kinds of (s)craps: dry tree leaves, postcards, cut-outs of cute cats and Bambies from magazines (in short: stuff that belongs in the dustbin); tape all that to the cardboard. For that you will only need to buy a set of three rolls of decorative tape for €2.59 and probably a large sheet of coloured cardboard. And maybe some foam to strengthen the cardboard. Ok maybe a cute postcard or two. Voilà! (Euh, why would you want to do this?) The magazine also gives tips on how to uselessly deploy the leftovers of the decorative tape.

Here's a how-to
If you are poor, you don’t throw things away. You repurpose. Here’s how to repurpose old little toys once your kid stopped playing with them. Collect some glass jars with a lid; glue the toy to the lid; spray the lid and the toy with paint = done! You just need to buy some suitable glue (from €2.29). And a spray can of paint or several spray cans if you want your jars in different colours. Now all you have to do is to find some crap to keep in those jars. Of course you can always buy something.

I think the recession did not hit us hard enough. There’s still room to go until we have no useless stuff around the house to repurpose and no money to buy supplies for useless ‘home decorations’. Then we’ll be closer to poor. We might also become much happier then.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

No blood

To our huge disappointment there was no blood. The mouse was not dead and not even slightly injured because the cat did not bite her at all. He only lightly touched her with his paw to encourage her to move if she spent too long a time in one corner. He played with her for hours and the most time was taken by waiting in this or that corner. Every once in a while the mouse felt caught and then she would stand on her back paws and look the cat straight in the eye. And that pussy of a cat would back up!

We comforted ourselves with the notion that the mouse was afraid of the cat and that mice might leave our house just to avoid the horror of being chased by the cat around the house for hours. She was definitely more afraid of him than of us and let herself be caught in a glass and brought to the neighbouring street. Whoever got her now in their house must be delighted.

Even though the cat let us do half of the work to let the mouse disappear, I still consider the operation quite successful and thinking of placing the cat food closer to the vent in the kitchen where more mice might come through. Or should I let the mice be? Experience shows that when you teach your baby the names of different animals it’s very convenient to actually have these animals at hand.

Maybe we should also get a fox: Ylvis - The Fox

Thursday, 12 September 2013


The famous National Geographic & University of Georgia Kitty Cams (Crittercam)Project revealed that domestic free-roaming cats hunt and bring 23% of their prey home as a present for their owners. 28% is eaten and 49% is left to (die and) rot on the site.

Up to yesterday my cat had brought home two birds (one of them to the baby room, isn't that sweet?) and one butterfly. If we apply the statistics that would mean that he had eaten 3.65 animals and left 6.39 bodies on the site. I saw him dismembering a dragon fly in the garden once. He didn't eat it.

But that was up to yesterday. Yesterday he spent a few hours hunting a mouse indoors.

I am not sure it adds to his number as this was not happening outside. I also have difficulty placing the outcome of this hunt within the three categories offered by the research. I suggest you make a quick guess in the poll at the right side of this blog.

Discovered yesterday: Susheela Raman - Maya

Friday, 6 September 2013


Do you think I might be exaggerating?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Disclaimer: I think people who can create things – be it clothes, furniture, paper flowers or cast candlesticks - with their hands deserve all respect and admiration of the world. For their talent and for their skill.

Last Sunday we went to the Home Made Market here in The Hague.  It’s a lively one-day market where you can buy all kinds of non-mass-produced things. We got a necklace to give as a present, a pair of earrings for me and trousers for our baby daughter. All girly stuff I know. Somehow there was not much to be had for men.

Anyway. I’ve heard the words ‘hand-made’ nearly at every stand last Sunday. And here’s the thing: I am not surprised that sellers use the notion for their marketing so excessively often. Most people gifted with two right hands are not that original, they just copy each other. What does surprise me, is that other people buy it. As if ‘hand-made’ makes a product better by definition.

Now let’s get two things straight:
A) If you make clothes using a sewing machine, then your products are not much more hand-made than a random mass produced piece of apparel. This may come as a shock to you, but in big factories clothes parts are put together by real people (usually women) one piece at a time. Women behind sewing machines. They all use their hands for their work. Same goes for jewellery.

B) In many cases (I would even argue – in most) using machines instead of your bare hands makes your product better, not worse.

So please, stop giving me that ‘hand-made’ sh*t. Save time and money on marketing. Just make something original. I will buy it.

This guy didn’t say anything about hand-made. He didn’t say anything at all. I bought three pieces from him and will come back for more.

P.S. If I find the time, I'll photograph and show off my new earrings next time.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


So, yes, in Soviet Union they knew how to mass produce: kitchen utensils, toys, clothes, furniture and even houses. You could live five time zones away from each other and still have the same apartment layout and bed linen. It’s not that everything was absolutely the same, but ‘Hey, I have exactly the same [whatever]’ was left unsaid at least half of the time.

There used to be a lot of satire about that. It was a part of everyday reality. It could be frustrating, but it also forced people to be creative in order not to lose themselves in this mass produced mass. People went to Moscow, built strong ties with so-called speculators, spent long hours queuing in shops and crafted things. In that struggle to express your individuality, boy, you needed skills!

Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. And many of us, myself included, have left what’s left of it. We moved westwards for different reasons, but one thing we all knew: there will be freedom and plenty of possibilities to have stuff you like. One can go to a shop and buy, without having to queue, things that they like that are different from that of their neighbours, friends and family.

So here I am. When I visit people in their homes I usually see at least one piece of furniture that I can call by its IKEA name. Kitchen utensils – Brabantia, Koziol or Alessi – I can tell from a distance. If you live in the Netherlands, you own any amount of HEMA items that I will recognise immediately. And kids, wearing H&M, well…

My daughter has a Fisher-Price toy that sings songs in Russian. I spotted the same toy, but singing in German, in Germany last week. And today I saw the very same toy at her kindergarten. So despite of all this consumerism with its huge choice, we still all wear, use and play with the same stuff. How ironic.

This is so old, it’s not even on Youtube: “Вот в этом окне - оранжевый абажур. А вот в этом окне - оранжевый абажур. Но зато в этом окне! - оранжевый абажур. Тысяча окон - тысяча оранжевых абажуров. Люди, как абажуры, похожи друг на друга. Так считает министерство культуры. Так сичтают директора швейных фабрик. Тысяча человек - тысяча одинаковых штанов. А нет того, чтобы сшили одни, огромные-преогромные штаны, и уж надели бы их на всех! - директоров швейных фабрик! Вот тогда бы они поняли, что люди у нас разные, и вкусы у них - разные...”

Thursday, 22 August 2013

And the winner is…

 It’s time to unravel the name of the mysterious Soviet stuffed animal. Here’s what you guessed:
- fox (mislead by the neon red colour);
- cat;
- mouse;
- little bear with big ears (I told you it was NOT a bear);
- ballet-dancing bear (still not a bear);
- Richard Simmons;
- wolf.

None of these is correct, even though I liked the Richard Simmons guess. The winning ‘guess’ came from a former classmate of mine who did not have to guess because she probably had the very same toy. At that time of total deficit of everything many people owned same stuff be it furniture, clothes, toys or home appliances. This gave me an idea for my next blog post that I hope to write in a couple of days.

A friend sent me this some time ago: Oliver Koletzki feat. Fran - Hypnotized

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the name of the animal – it’s a raccoon! I will contact the winner about the prize.

Friday, 16 August 2013


One day when my mother came to pick me up from school, she was carrying a big bright stuffed toy in a plastic bag. Yay! In the tram on our way home we must have resembled the Bremen musicians: my mother, me on her lap, my toy on my lap.

Once home we opened the plastic bag and saw a little white sheet of paper with product information. It contained all kinds of information including the price and what animal the toy was supposed to represent. And so from then on we referred to the toy by the name from the label. Somehow we never questioned that. Didn’t bother I guess.

So here’s the toy. Can you tell which animal it is? Place your guesses in the comments. The one who guesses right will receive an invitation to the yearly Sinterklaas party and get a set of Sinterklaas presents.

Round up on Tuesday, 20 August in the evening. Good luck!

P.S. Hint: it’s not a bear.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Brave New…

"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."

Well that is still to come in 2540. Despite all optimistic forecasts on life expectancy it is safe to assume that neither I nor you are going to live to see that happen. But don’t be upset, the present is almost as bright. The only difference is that children are not conditioned in their sleep. Instead they are subject to aggressive conditioning every waking minute of their lives starting from birth.

This is how it goes:
I am a little girl
oh so cute and oh so sweet!

As sweet as an icecream.
In my world it's all about the looks.
I live a wild glam life
of constant party and fiesta.
My primary everyday concern 
is what to wear.
Of course I go for couture
and sparkling dancing shoes.
I get glamorous presents all the time.
I can also bake tarts

and grow flowers.
Which makes me a supergirl.
Everything is my life can be described as chique, pretty, glamorous, couture - all things that make a girl happy.
Kittens are cute.
So is Bambi.
I will grow up to be a lady blabla.
Until I glamorously die.

Obviously, I don’t do driving, scuba diving or sailing. Don’t expect me to be an athlete or play ball games of any kind. I don’t like robots, dinosaurs and rock music. Supermen are for boys. Did we cover all the life topics?

I think I'm done shopping for my little daughter.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Some days ago I received a letter from the Dutch social security administration. I think they were testing my abilities in calculus. I failed.

 The letter said:
“In our letter dated February 25th, 2013 we let you know that you have to pay back an amount of €3424.25 to us.
The total you have to pay consists of the following:
For this year you have to pay back €2187.62.
For last year or earlier you have to pay back €52.84.
In total you have to pay back €2673.01.
Please use the transfer order form attached. Amount: €2240.46.”

So, are you better than me in calculus?

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